By Elana B. Multi-award-winning writer, advertiser, speaker and internationally published author
In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world, stress has become a fact of life. Since everyone experiences stress differently, discovering what triggers stress for each individual is important. In general, stress is related to external and internal factors. It can cause people to feel overwhelmed or pushed to the limit. Stress can also be a reaction to a short-lived situation, such as being stuck in traffic or it can last a long time if you’re dealing with relationship problems, the death of a loved one, a bad job, or a serious illness. Over time, stress becomes dangerous when it interferes with your ability to live a normal life.
While low to moderate levels of stress can be good for you when managed in healthy ways, extreme stress takes an emotional and physical toll. Since stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, as well as your behavior, being able to recognize common stress symptoms can help you when it comes to managing stress.
Common physical symptoms of excess stress include weight gain or loss, sleep disturbances or changes in sleeping habits, muscle tension, muscle aches, headache, gastrointestinal problems, severe exhaustion, high blood pressure
and heart disease. If you are already dealing with a preexisting medical condition, it can worsen during times of stress. Emotional and behavioral symptoms that can accompany extreme or excess stress include nervousness, anxiety, anger, changes in eating habits (overeating or under-eating), loss of enthusiasm and energy (fatigue), as well as other mood changes, such as irritability and depression. Some of these health problems might be caused by other medical conditions; however, elevated stress can exacerbate preexisting conditions.
It is also known that people under a great deal of stress have a greater tendency to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as: excessive use or abuse of alcohol and drugs, cigarette smoking, making poor financial choices, negative physical and emotional choices, as well as making poor exercise and nutritional choices. These unhealthy behaviors can further increase the severity of symptoms related to stress, until it becomes a vicious cycle.
7 Tips to help you recognize and relieve stress:
- Identify your sources of stress
- What events or situations trigger stressful feelings? Are they related to your work, financial situation, or decisions you’ve made? Does it involve your children, family, health, relationships or something else?
- Write down these stressors and try and establish which is the most stressful to least stressful.This will give you a starting point of what needs to be addressed first to help you cope and relieve some of the debilitating effects that you are experiencing.
- Is part of your problem related to your ability to juggle all of these stressors?
- Or is the bigger dilemma your feeling of overload or fear of too much responsibility?
- Recognizing who, what, and why you feel stress is important in helping resolve it.
2. Understand how you experience stress
- Everyone experiences stress differently. How do you know when you are stressed?
- How are your thoughts or behaviors different from times when you do not feel stressed?
- Is your stress something that develops over days of constant overload?
- Do you experience stress regardless of how much rest you have had?
3. Recognize how you deal with stress
- Determine if you are using unhealthy behaviors (such as smoking, drinking alcohol or eating too much or too little) to cope.
- Is this routine behavior, or is it specific to certain events or situations?
- Do you make unhealthy choices as a result of feeling rushed and overwhelmed?
- Do you make unhealthy choices because you feel you feel like a failure for not being able to handle everything? If you answered “yes” cut yourself some slack. Remember that “Superman” is a cartoon character. Keep a positive, realistic attitude. Accept that although you can’t control certain things, you’re in charge of how you respond and how you proceed to get help. You need to make your health a priority.
4. Take care of yourself
- Eat right, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water
- Make sure you exercise and maintain regular times for physical activity.
- Keep your mind and body healthy by practicing relaxation techniques and participating in activities like yoga, meditation, prayer, or tai chi.
- Keep up your social activities…go to the gym with a friend or play sports.
- Take regular vacations or breaks from work. No matter how hectic life gets, make time for yourself — even if it’s just simple things like reading a good book, lying on a beach and listening to the waves, hiking in the great outdoors, or listening to your favorite music. You need peace and alone time.
- Try to manage your time wisely. Not good with time management? There is a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips on the information highway.
5. Learn your own stress signals and how to handle them
- People experience stress in different ways. You may have a hard time concentrating or making decisions. You may feel aggression, irritability or even out of control, or experience headaches, muscle tension or a lack of energy. When you can gauge your stress signals you will be better equipped to know what to do to relieve your tension, fears, or frustrations.
- Ask yourself what you can do about the sources of your stress. Think through the pros and cons. Take action where you can.
- If someone is getting on your nerves, putting you down, or putting pressure on you, stand up for yourself in a polite way. Share your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, defensive, or passive.
- Avoid people who stress you out. Obviously, if this is your boss or your spouse, you can’t avoid either, but you can take positive action to reduce the stress. As for people who are not so obviously a part of your every day life, if someone adds to your stress, avoid this person.
- Say no to things that would add more stress to your life.
- Eat healthy. Avoid too much sugar. Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Salmon is the exception. Salmon is loaded with healthy fats and omega 3’s which are great for your body and brain health.
- Say “NO” to comfort foods when you are stressed. If you partake when you are stressed, you will probably overdo it and it will add to your problems.
- Get enough rest. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events.
6. Eliminate as many sources of stress as you can
- Clear up clutter. Clutter is stressful to most people. Give things to charity. Throw things out that you don’t need, that get in your way, or are a source of unneeded stress.
- If crowds bother you, go to the grocery store when you know the lines won’t be too long.
- Don’t take on more than you can handle. If you are already committed to one event on the weekend, do not commit to anything else.
- If you have weekend chores, yard work, make a list and tackle one project per weekend.
- If you are asked to participate in something that you know is stressful for you, such as a sport or even a card game that puts you on edge or makes you feel you should be competitive but you need to relax…just say no.
- Avoid hot-button topics. If you get upset over religion or politics, cross them off your conversation list.
- If you have the same argumentative or disturbing conversations with the same person, realize that your opinion is not shared so your point is lost on this person and avoid these topics.
7. Reach out for support
- Accepting help from supportive friends and family can improve your ability to manage stress.
- Spend time with the people you love.
- If you continue to feel overwhelmed by stress, you may want to talk to a psychologist who can help you better manage the things that trigger you. Therapists are great at helping you recognize unhealthy behavior.
Remember that being able to control stress is a learned behavior, and stress can be effectively managed by taking small steps toward changing unhealthy behavior. The fact that ‘management of stress’ is mostly dependent on the willingness of a person to make the changes necessary for a healthy lifestyle means—you are in control of your life.
Don’t despair if you feel a little overwhelmed getting started. Baby steps count. You can make positive changes that will help reduce your stress. Be sure to get plenty of sleep, eat a balanced diet, and drink a good amount of water (the 8×8 rule: 8 ounces x 8 times a day). You should never feel dehydrated. More water is needed if you exercise a lot or live in a hot climate. If overweight, drinking an extra glass of water for every 20-25 lbs is a good rule to go by. Remember, this additional supplementation is for people who still feel dehydrated or if a doctor feels you are overweight (not if you can’t fit into your size 2 pants). For the best results, make certain to also include a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise in your daily regimen. Try to avoid tobacco use, excess caffeine, and alcohol intake.
Remind yourself that you are not alone. The daily grind affects just about everyone. Whether you have a long commute to work or you are a mom with rambunctious kids, life can be stressful. Whatever it takes, you have to find some “me” time and an outlet for your stress. Set your intention and follow through. Go to the gym and sweat it out, opt for a little zen time by taking a yoga class, learn to meditate, take a dance class or simply relax in a quiet place, pop in some earphones, and listen to some relaxing music.
Remember…if you start moving in the right direction, you will reach your destination.
Consult your doctor before using any health treatment plan or activity — including vitamins, herbal supplements, and natural remedies. Also, tell your health care provider if you have a serious medical condition or are taking any medications. The information presented here is for educational purposes only and is in no way intended as a substitute for medical counseling.
About the author: Elana B. is a multi award-winning writer, advertiser, speaker, and internationally published author. As a writer and ghostwriter she has written hundreds of stories from books to shorts to screenplays.
A gifted storyteller, Elana B.’s new children’s series, Too Terribly Busy and the “Too Terribly” Series of books, teach in a fun, creative way some of the most important lessons in life. Through this entertaining series of books, children will learn morals, manners, how important it is to achieve goals, as well as conflict resolution. Check out the sneak peek of the first story in the new series: TooTerriblyBusy-SP1.
More by Elana B. and other related articles:
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